Tuesday, July 22, 2014

catching up

I haven't blogged in two months, and it seriously feels like it was just yesterday.
Is it just me, or is summer flying by?

What have you been up to?
Are you having a fun summer?
I figured I'd catch you up on what I've been doing these past two months since I took an unplanned hiatus so suddenly.

Needless to say, I've been busy.
All over the place.
I don't really feel like I've had any time to breathe, honestly!
But with that said, I will say that most of it has been awesome.

Joe sent me "happy 6 months 'til our wedding" flowers, and my heart melted, appropriately...

...I hosted a girls' night at my apartment, complete with six hours at the pool, cocktails, dinner, and a face mask bar {thanks to Kayla's crafty skills!}...

...I brunched...a lot...

...Joe and I spent the 4th of July in Mexico on a family vacation {I miss you Isla Mujeres}...

...I went to more girls' nights...

...I helped host a nautical-themed baby shower {using this chicken salad for these little crabs!}...

...and finally, I helped host a surprise hashtag-themed bridal shower for a bride friend/fellow hashtag-lover of mine at work {don't get excited, the mimosas were made with sparkling grape juice}.

On top of all of that, there's been parties, dinners, brunches, Orange is the New Black marathons, wedding planning, and a promotion at work!

There's also been a lot of recipe fails.
One day I'll have a cauliflower mash to share with you, but that day is sadly not today.

Question: Have you ever tried to eat paleo before?
Joe is interested in doing it {and when I say that, I mean he's interested in us doing it because I'm the one who makes our meals}, but I don't know too much about it.
Really just touching the tip of the iceberg at the moment.
Any/all suggestions would be great on places to start.

Oh yeah, also, are you watching The Bachelorette?!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

cacio e pepe

We've been good with our green smoothies.
Lets eat some pasta, shall we?

Cacio e pepe, meaning "cheese and pepper" in Italian, is just that.
A simple pasta dish with the main ingredients of cheese and pepper.
It really doesn't get any easier.

This is a perfect meal for one of those I-don't-feel-like-cooking-tell-me-what-you-want-to-eat-I-give-up-lets-just-eat-popcorn nights {i.e. last night at our place}.
I was all set to oven-roast some BBQ chicken when I realized the fridge did not defrost my chicken as fast as I had expected.
After a few minutes of frantically pacing the kitchen looking at bag after bag of smoothie fruit, I remembered I had bought the ingredients for cacio e pepe!
Not the healthiest dinner, but I had put it on my grocery list for an occasion exactly like this.
You can't fight fate.

Also, when Joe and I can't agree on what we want for dinner, we have no problem agreeing on pasta.
Especially this one.

recipe adapted via Cup of Jo
Things you'll need:

1/2 box of linguine noodles {or spaghetti noodles; I personally prefer a thicker noodle, but either works fine!}
6 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter
3-4 tbsp ground black pepper {I go heavy on the pepper; again, personal preference}
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, and more for sprinkling

In a large pot, cook noodles according to package instructions.
Don't forget to salt the water!
Unsalted pasta water is total blasphemy.

While pasta is boiling, heat butter and oil on low-medium heat.
Add pepper and stir slowly, letting the pepper gently toast in the butter/oil mixture.
When you add the pepper, it will make the liquid bubble up and become a little noisy {pictured above}.
However, don't fret.
After a little stirring, it will calm down...

...and look more like this.
Brown and toasty and delicious.

When the pasta is done, drain it carefully, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water.
This step is crucial.
You need that delicious, starchy, salty pasta water to make the magic of the dish come together, trust me on this.
Turn the oil mixture to medium heat, and gently toss in the pasta to coat.
Add the Parmesan cheese and 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
Stir until cheese is melted.
At this point, you can add more pasta water to make it the consistency you like.
I think I ended up adding almost the full cup here {I went for a creamier texture}.

Scoop into a bowl, sprinkle with an extra pinch of pepper, and top it off with some more Parmesan cheese.
Stir and enjoy!

The great thing about this dish, besides its simplicity, is that you can totally make just one serving.
When Joe is traveling, I always have a hard time finding dishes to make for one {that don't include avocado toast or a bowl of cereal}.
I found this recipe on Cup of Jo back in October and have since tweaked it to make closer to 4 servings, but when I'm home alone that's still my go-to recipe {except I always end up adding more pasta water and cheese...I can't help it!}.

Do you have any good one-serving recipes?
Or easy go-to meals for weeknights?

I need some inspiration these days.

How was your weekend?

Joe and I watched some dear friends of ours get married on Saturday {congratulations, Brittany and Brian!} and then spent our Sunday watching Game of Thrones on the couch together.
I'm sorry, is it just me, or does Game of Thrones have a habit of killing off the best characters?
I'm still not fully recovered from Drogo!
I only just started season 3, so I'm trying to mentally prepare myself for all the craziness coming up.

We'll see how that goes.

Oh and also, I officially became that obnoxious bride that has a t-shirt so that everyone will know she's a bride...

...I'll consider myself judged.

Friday, May 16, 2014

a post on dieting + a very green smoothie

Dieting is my jam.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't love depriving myself of pizza and tacos and queso forever and ever amen, but if I had to choose between diet and exercise, I'm going diet 100% of the time.

Joe and I had this conversation the other day.
I've been forcing us to try this green smoothie cleanse I read about it, and after a couple of days it was evident that it was a lot harder for Joe than it was for me.
And he seemed to clear it up with one statement.
"I know that if I really want to, I can exercise for an hour and a half every single day, but I just don't think you have that in you."

He was so right.
I don't have that in me.
I've joined every gym and taken every class known to man, and I still only really love walking and yoga.  It's as simple as that.
If I had to choose a strenuous workout, I'd choose spin class - I do love spin.  However, I typically only do spin in one or two-month increments when I'm in crunch mode.
Long-term, walking and yoga have always been my thing.

And dieting.
I'm lucky enough to be one of those people that like and will eat almost anything - except tuna...keep your nasty can of tuna away from me - but I wasn't always this way.
There have been foods over the years that I would never go near that I finally decided I should really put some effort into trying to like.
For example, avocado.
Two years ago I wouldn't have been caught dead eating guacamole.
But after experimenting with different ways to make it and serve it, now I can't get enough!
Slather it on any and all sandwiches you give me, thanks.

My point is, even if you have the plainest of plain taste, it's worth getting out of your comfort zone every now and then and trying new foods.
You never know how much you might really enjoy them!

Last year, I really wanted to start trying more green smoothies.
I even posted about my very first one {which was good, but looking back now I can't believe I didn't liquify the greens first...#newbie}.
Ever since we did the green smoothie cleanse last week, I've started really experimenting and incorporating as many greens into my diet as possible.
And smoothies are the perfect way to do that!  I get more greens in the one batch of smoothie I drink per day than I would eating a salad by far.
Also, I find it incredibly interesting to mix and match the fruits and greens and see what combinations I like best.

This morning I mixed up a particularly good combination, so alas.

Things you'll need:

2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1 handful baby spring mix
3 large kale leaves, destemmed
2 cups cold water {more if needed}
2 apples, diced
1 cup frozen peaches
1 cup frozen strawberries
handful of frozen mango chunks
1 stevia packet
2 tbsp ground flax seed

This step I have found to be crucial to keeping me on track.
Before I go to bed at night, I prep as much as possible.
I put all the greens for my smoothie in a gallon-sized Ziplock bag and keep it in the fridge.
I also chop and put any fruit for the smoothie in a bag to be kept in the freezer.
That way, in the morning, all I have to do is grab and blend {and the smoothie gets a great consistency from the frozen fruit, requiring no ice!}.

Add your greens to the blender with the water, and blend until smooth.
The more I make these, the more greens I tend to use, so lately I've had to add an extra splash or two of water to get things moving.

Add all the fruit, and blend until smooth.
If you have a powerful blender {like a Vitamix or something similar}, this will take no time.
My poor, old Black and Decker is on it's very last legs {it's cracked all the way down one side, so it's only a matter of time}, so it takes me a little longer.  More like 3 to 5 minutes.

Once smooth, add stevia and ground flax seed {which I found in the natural/organic section of Kroger} and blend for another 15-20 seconds or so.

This makes a lot of smoothie, so I drink a big cup for breakfast {my to-go cup is 24 oz} and then save the rest to be drank with a light lunch.

Another good thing about this method - because you're using frozen fruit instead of ice to thicken it up, it doesn't melt in the refrigerator!
I have found this to be key.
The other day I had a lunch date so I saved my extra smoothie for dinner, and it was still perfectly creamy and not the least bit watered down 9 hours after I made it.

Can't beat that!

Also, please don't feel like you have to stick with the ingredients I listed.  You can mix, match, and replace anything you want.
I made one with an apple, pear, banana, and peaches the other day that was just as good!
Not everyone likes the bitter taste of kale, so start out more mild if you're intimidated.
All spinach is just as healthy.
Make it your own!

Do you have any go-to smoothie combos?
Dieting tips?

I recently started the '28 to Great' Barre3 challenge online, and so far I'm loving it {although it's seriously kicking my butt}.

It's seven months until the wedding, and that dress is looking more and more elusive...
And speaking of the wedding, I'll leave you with our magnet save-the-date, which finally arrived last week!

Have a good weekend, friends!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

pesto pasta with asparagus

You guys.
I'm alive, I swear.
I've been having photo editing issues, but now that they are all taken care of I'm back in business!
{Thank you, VSCOcam customer service, for being so helpful!}

For awhile there, I felt like I was going through a cooking rut.
It's happened once or twice before here on this little space of mine, and you can always tell when because the new recipes dwindle.
It always takes me awhile to start feeling motivated and inspired again, but it never fails - something happens to bring me back to the kitchen.

This time, it was these guys.

Our first shipment of wine from lovely Napa Valley!
I'm going to dedicate a post to that soon because it was just too wonderful to condense into a couple of sentences, but while we were there, we joined the winery where our engagement wine came from!
Meaning, every couple months we get a shipment of amazing wines to save, share, or enjoy with our friends.

Wine shipped directly from Napa to my doorstep?
Sign me up!

When our first shipment came in, we decided it would be fun to have a nice dinner and open a bottle.

{We also got to play with some wedding gifts, so I didn't hate that part either!}

So, in lieu of the delicious wine at my doorstep, I felt like it was time to get back in the kitchen and make us something new.
I hadn't tried a new recipe in weeks, and what better a thing than wine to inspire a girl?

Something delicious ensued.

recipe adapted via
Things you'll need:

10 oz bow tie pasta {a little less than a whole box}
1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup basil pesto
1/3 cup Mozzarella, cubed
fried egg {optional}

For the pesto {recipe via}:

3/4 cup fresh basil leaves {one mini package from the grocery store}
2 cloves garlic
3 tbsp pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

For the pesto, simply add the basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan, salt and pepper into a food processor, and pulse a few times to roughly chop.
Add olive oil, and turn the processor on until emulsified.
My food processor doesn't allow me to drizzle the oil in while it's running, so I add the oil all at once.
If yours will allow you to slowly stream it in, go for it!
Set aside.

Cook pasta according to package instructions.
While pasta is boiling, chop asparagus into 1- to 2-inch pieces.
Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium.
Toss in asparagus, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until asparagus is cooked through but still has a crunch.
{I loathe mushy asparagus, so I hardly ever roast or steam it - sautéing is totally my jam.}

Add the cooked pasta to a large bowl along with the asparagus, mozzarella cubes, and pesto.
The pesto recipe makes a bit more than 1/2 cup, but not enough to save, so I just use all of it.
Stir to combine, and watch the mozzarella cubes begin to melt.

Then, if you so choose, top with a fried egg.
Let the warm yolk run onto your serving, and enjoy!

The fried egg is totally optional.
We've had it both ways and loved it with and without.
In fact, Joe said he wouldn't mind this being our meal every Thursday {which is good, because it has been the past two Thursdays!}.

The first time, I didn't serve this with anything.
Just good wine and good company.
And it was very filling!

The second time, I added a baguette with some garlic oil for dipping {also from Napa, possibly my favorite purchase}, and it was just as amazing.

It sounds sort of strange to put asparagus in a pasta dish, but trust me, you want to do this.
Asparagus is one of those vegetables that I struggle finding new ways to use, and this is definitely my current favorite.

And lets just take a minute to talk about pesto.
I've been wanting to make it for years now, and I can't believe I waited this long!
I seriously can't stop.
I've made two batches of the basil pesto, plus a kale version, and I can't wait to see what other greens I like!
Maybe pea pesto next?

How have you been lately?
Tell me everything!
I may have been quiet via blog, but I've definitely been reading along.
Is it just me, or is every blogger and their sister pregnant these days?

I love it!

Friday, April 11, 2014

i'll be here...

photo cred
In a couple of hours, Joe and I are off for a weekend of wine tasting in my dreamland - Napa Valley!

He's been traveling so much lately, particularly to California, so we decided it was time I tag along and see the sights with him for once.
I mean for a $5 plane ticket, why not?  {Thank you, Delta Skymiles!}

We have a full day planned tomorrow, but there are two things I'm particularly excited about:
1.  We are visiting the Kathryn Hall winery {which, if you've been reading along, you know is where our engagement wine came from}, and;
2.  We're doing an olive oil tasting!  I don't think I've ever had really good olive oil, so I am really interested to see if I can tell a significant difference.  Hopefully I don't get spoiled!

What are you up to this weekend?
Did you make any good meals this week?

Please do tell!
I'm currently in a healthy food rut.
After seven bowls of zucchini soup this week {literally...seven...so many leftovers}, "rut" is probably the understatement of the century.

Hope your week didn't drag by as slow as mine did!

Monday, March 24, 2014

blueberry muffins with a cinnamon crumb topping

Am I the only one that watches Charlie and the Chocolate Factory every time it's on television?
I have so many shows on my DVR right now it's sickening, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just started and I can't seem to turn it off.
Maybe it's how delicious they make the chocolate look?
I mean who doesn't want to swim in a chocolate river?
No girlfriend of mine would turn that down...and if you would, I'm not sure I trust you.

That literally has nothing to do with these muffins...except that they are also quite delicious.
And that I halved the batter to make a chocolate chip version too.
Because, duh.

Joe is traveling again this week {third week out of four...it's safe to say I'm over it}, so Sunday morning I decided to make us breakfast while we got in our last cuddles for the week.
I did a test run of these muffins about a week ago since I had never made muffins from scratch before, and I can tell you now - I'll never go back to the boxed stuff.
These things are just as moist, filled with fresh blueberries, and are topped with a crispy cinnamon crumb topping that's to die for.
I could eat the blueberry version every day if I had the choice {or anything blueberry really, if I'm being honest...I'm going through a serious blueberry kick these days}, but if you've been following this little blog of mine at all, you know Joe loves his chocolate.
Morning, noon, or night, I'd venture to say that's one of his favorite foods.

So, naturally, he requested chocolate chip muffins.
Thankfully, because I made them from scratch, it's really simple to just split the batter in half and do two different versions at once!

But if you're a fruit gal like me, I totally recommend the blueberry version.
So good.

recipe adapted via
Things you'll need:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 to 1/2 cup almond milk
1 cup frozen {or fresh} blueberries

For crumb topping:

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/6 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter, cubed
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly spray muffin pan with cooking spray.  I use the large muffin tin {the one that makes 6 jumbo muffins} because I'd rather have one large breakfast muffin than two smalls ones.
Totally up to you though - any pan will work fine!
Combine flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a bowl, and whisk together to remove lumps.
In a separate bowl, mix together vegetable oil, egg, and 1/3 cup of milk.
Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
I always end up having to add a splash or two more of milk because the batter is too thick...so I probably end up adding closer to 1/2 cup total.
You don't want your batter to be runny, but you don't want it to be too thick either.
The photo above is the right consistency.

If you're doing the all-blueberry version, now would be the time to gently fold in a cup of blueberries.
I use frozen wild blueberries, but fresh would work too!
If you're making a half-and-half version, fold 1/2 cup of blueberries into one half of batter and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips into the other half of the batter.
{Feel free to mix up the fruit you use too!  I think chopped strawberries would be divine.}

For the crumb topping, mix sugar, flour, butter, and cinnamon in a small bowl, using a fork to smash up the cubed butter.

Fill the muffin cups 2/3 of the way full, and top generously with crumb topping.
It's going to feel powdery, but don't worry!
The butter will melt in the oven and work some serious magic.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out relatively clean.

Let them sit for about five minutes, and then serve while still warm!

These muffins are light and fluffy, and I'd definitely venture to say that the crumb topping is what makes them.
It kind of makes them taste like you bought them at a coffee shop or a bakery.
They're just a bit fancier than your everyday muffin {making them the perfect special weekend breakfast, if you ask me}!

Go ahead and plan on trying these out ASAP.
You'll thank me, I promise!

Did you do anything exciting over the weekend?

Besides our Sunday muffins, Kayla came over for a slumber party, Joe and I watched Frozen twice {totally obsessed}, and we got our engagement photos done in Athens!
It seemed only appropriate to do them on campus at UGA, since that's where we met.
I haven't gotten them all back yet, but I'll leave you with the sneak peek our photographer sent me.

Happy Monday, friends!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

getting engaged - part two

Hi friends!
Hope your week is going well and that you enjoyed part one of our engagement!
If you missed that, feel free to catch up here.

Without further ado, let's finish this love story.


Where we left off, life was good.

Joe and I were settled in Alpharetta and doing really well at our jobs.
We hadn't talked about getting engaged since the wine incident, and even though I was a little sad it hadn't happened yet, I was very content in our relationship.

Before we knew it, it was December - our five year anniversary, Christmas, and New Years.
December has always been one of our favorite months {clearly because there's a lot of celebrating to be done}, and this one was no exception.
We had a lovely, low-key anniversary on the 19th, and then spent some time at Joe's parents' house for Christmas.
For New Years, we had planned to have Kayla and her boyfriend over for a couple of days to celebrate.
They were set to arrive on December 30th, and I couldn't wait!

I remember that day being a very normal day.
I had to work and Joe didn't, so he was tasked with cleaning the apartment before our friends arrived {which obviously had me slightly panicked...will he get it all done in time?!}
I was grumpy because something at work wasn't going my way, so basically I was watching the clock - ready to get off, have drinks with my friends, and relax for the next couple of days.
Because Joe was in charge of cleaning {and I know that he would choose Xbox over actually cleaning any day of the week}, I texted him a few times throughout the day to make sure things were getting done.
But he never answered.
Which is so strange, because normally we talk pretty much all day.  If an hour or two goes by that we haven't touched base, it's unusual.
So by 3:00, I was straight up worried.  Worried enough that I told my manager that I needed a minute to FaceTime him because this was so unlike him not to answer.
And thank goodness, he finally answered...only to tell me he had been playing Xbox and was just about to start vacuuming.
What?!  Please start cleaning, they'll be here in two hours!
That's pretty much how the conversation went.
My manager laughed once I got off the phone, and at 5:00 she wished me luck on the cleaning, to which I responded, "If he hasn't vacuumed, he's dead."
If I knew what he had really been doing all day, I never would have said that!

{What he was really doing all day was ring shopping with Kayla and July...

...and buying me the most beautiful ring!}

I got home, and thankfully the apartment was spotless, so I proceeded to tell Joe all about how awful my day was - so awful that I didn't even feel like changing out of my work clothes for dinner.  {These days I'm kicking myself for that...}
Our friends arrived around 6:00 and brought their dog along with them, which AJ was less than thrilled about.
I remember offering at least three times to take him to daycare, and everyone kept insisting I didn't leave {which I totally didn't understand...why is everyone being so weird?! It's not a big deal!}, until finally Kayla suggested we go freshen up for dinner.
The two of us went into the bedroom and started touching up our makeup and chatting about our day.
After a moment or two, Joe peaked his head in and asked me to come to the living room real quick, which I assumed would just be him asking me a question about the plans for the night...

He quickly walked over to our Christmas tree, so {still oblivious} I followed him to see what he needed.
When he turned around, he handed me a glass of red wine...

"Taste this - is it good?  Do you know what wine this is?  Do you remember what you said about this wine?"

It immediately clicked, and all I could said was "yeah...I do..."
{In my head I was thinking is this really happening?!  NOW?!}

He took my glass, set it down on the TV stand, and took both of my hands in his.
Then he said the things I had been waiting to hear for five years.
I wish I could remember it all verbatim, but after he said, "I can't wait to have kids with you one day," I honestly think I blacked out from the realization that this was actually happening.  Here.  In our apartment.  On what seemed to be a normal Monday night.

He asked me to marry him right there in our living room, in front of my best friend and her boyfriend, and obviously I said yes immediately!

That wasn't the last surprise of the evening though.
Joe had planned a celebration for us {clearly he was confident in the 'yes'}, so immediately afterwards, his family and a ton of our friends were at our place, toasting and celebrating and admiring my sparkly new addition.

freshly engaged :)

It was the single most perfect night I've ever had, hands down.

And this brings me back to my original point on 'perfect timing.'
If Joe had proposed back in year one when I was ready, we wouldn't have been surrounded by all of the amazing friends we've made over our years together, it wouldn't have been as personal and intimate as it was {in our shared living room of the place we both call home}, and {biggest of all} we wouldn't have been able to afford the wedding we both envision having with each other.
It was so important for Joe to make sure we were taken care of {education, careers, savings} before he felt comfortable taking us on this next step, and now I understand why.
Wedding planning so far has been virtually stress-free because we're so settled, and for that, I am grateful.

That guy of mine, he's smart.

So there you have it folks.
That's the story of how we got engaged.

For those of you that are wondering, the wine we had was a Kathryn Hall cabernet.
I think it was this one, but I'd have to double check to be sure.
It was amazing though, and totally worth the wait {much like our engagement!}.

Lastly, since I was lucky enough to get engaged with my best friend present, I have a video of the whole thing that I will cherish for the rest of my days.
Thanks, Kayla!

It's a little dark, but you can hear the sweet words he said and I love it.
I can't wait to show it to our kids one day.